Temple Confrontations

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 6.1-6
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: 
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; 
the whole earth is full of his glory.” 
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” 

2 Chronicles 26.18-19
18 They confronted King Uzziah and said, “It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the Lord God.”

19 Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the Lord’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead.

Reflection: Temple Confrontations
By John Tillman

Unlike many prophets we have read, Isaiah was no outcast. He was a palace insider, accustomed to power, a friend to kings. According to Jewish tradition, he may even have been of royal blood himself. There is no question, however, that Isaiah’s writing is among the most treasured of the prophetic books. He was a highly educated, poetic, artistic, skilled writer who lived in a golden age of mostly good kings. 

We often think that a bit more power, a bit more influence, one “godly” leader will be just what we need to restore a “golden age.” But every earthly golden age has been built by corrupt power that stood on the backs of oppressed people.

Isaiah saw this power and pride up close. He saw it corrupt the hearts of at least two good kings—Hezekiah and Uzziah. Both were exemplary leaders up to a point. Both were brought down by pride.

Uzziah’s death, interestingly, is mentioned right before Isaiah describes encountering the Lord in his Temple. Uzziah’s experience in the Temple was humiliating, (2 Chronicles 26.21) resulting in his exile and death. Uzziah’s fate must have been in the back of Isaiah’s mind as he was confronted by a vision of God’s heavenly throne room overlapping the physical Temple.

Standing where Uzziah was struck with leprosy, Isaiah expected to be ruined. He knew that he, like Uzziah, was unclean before the Lord. But Isaiah’s outcome was different. Uzziah angrily claimed purity and was made unclean. (2 Chronicles 26.18-20) Isaiah fearfully confessed uncleanness and was made pure. 

Like Isaiah, we need to be confronted with our individual and collective uncleanness. (Isaiah confesses both.) That confrontation can go like Uzziah’s or like Isaiah’s. When we confess that we deserve censure, the censer of God burns away our sin, yet we are miraculously not consumed.

Normally, when ritually clean things touched ritually unclean things, the clean became contaminated. However, the coal from the altar purified Isaiah as Jesus purifies us. Jesus touched unclean lepers and they became clean. No matter how corrupted or sinful we may be, Jesus is willing to make us clean. (Matthew 8.2-3)

Isaiah can testify that golden ages aren’t what they are cracked up to be. Rather than an earthly golden age, we need a heavenly one. This begins by acknowledging that we deserve ruin, and getting renovated instead.

“Here am I, Lord. Send me.”

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. — Psalm 85.10

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 6 (Listen – 2:24)
Matthew 20 (Listen – 4:22)

This Weekend’s Readings
Isaiah 7 (Listen – 3:51), Matthew 21 (Listen – 7:10)
Isaiah 8-9.7 (Listen – 7:02), Matthew 22 (Listen – 4:56)

Read more about Where is the Love?
Thank Jesus for caring enough about you to keep kicking over your tables and cleaning up your mess.

Read more about Seeking After a Seeking God
God is a seeking God, he is always ready to meet us where we are…He will meet with us in a corrupted Temple, as he met with Isaiah.


Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 34.23-24, 27
She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people… Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord.

Reflection: Resolutions
By Erin Newton

New Year’s is one of my favorite lesser holidays. I love the idea of making new goals. However, some goals will fail miserably within the first month. Other goals I’ll forget I even made. I begin to wonder how I could forget something that once meant so much to me.

Chronicles is a second view of Israel’s history with a slightly different perspective than the books of Kings. We read again about the discovery of the book of the law during the reign of Josiah. The text seems foreign to the king and he needs the expertise and insight from the prophetess Huldah to understand.

We could pause a moment and be encouraged by God’s use of a woman to educate, inform, and interpret God’s word for the king. That is certainly a message for our day. Earlier this year, we reflected on the fact that Josiah responded positively to the rebuke given by the prophetess. (A Responsive Heart) That message continues to be needed as we reflect on our ignorance and reluctance to admit to past sins both private and corporate.

As I look toward the unknown year ahead, I think more about how the word had been forgotten. It was supposed to be read aloud and repeated throughout the year. In time, someone must have forgotten, become lazy, got distracted, was overwhelmed, stopped caring, succumbed to peer pressure, or found any number of reasons to neglect this duty. The few failures spread more and more until the entire community was ignorant.

Diane Langberg, an expert in trauma counseling, once said, “We get there little by little; blind, numb, and not noticing until the horrific seems normal and acceptable” (Suffering and the Heart of God). For the Israelites, they had replaced the worship of God with the worship of other deities and neglected to honor and support their marginalized neighbors. There was widespread injustice and oppression within the community. There was the suppression of true worship in their own hearts.

As we look toward this new year, this is the time to reflect on what you have forgotten in God’s word. The word calls us to pray often, take care of the poor, seek justice, walk humbly, speak truth, and give our lives for others. Let our apathy turn into a renewed covenant. Let the new year be filled with repentant hearts open to the wise counsel of godly women (or men). 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I will exalt you, O God my King, and bless your Name forever and ever. — Psalm 145.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 34 (Listen – 6:23) 
Revelation 20 (Listen – 2:49)

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Read more about A Responsive Heart
Josiah was 18 years into his reign when he discovered that what he grew up with as normal was angering to the Lord.

Come Out of Captivity

Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 33.10-13
10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. 12 In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God. 

Reflection: Come Out of Captivity
By John Tillman

Christ’s kingdom of light exposes the darkness of our human kingdoms. We find this not only in Revelation, but throughout the scriptures.

Differences in Chronicles and Kings show the motives and goals of the writers. They are not in conflict as much as they are complementing each other’s messages by emphasizing or omitting specific things.

Kings is dour, and at times depressing, reading. It made the case to exiles in Babylon that they suffered justly for their sins and called them to repent. One king after another, God’s chosen leaders, turned away from God. Human kings were revealed as unworthy and unrighteous failures. None were righteous. No, not one. We need to believe this about ourselves and our kingdoms.

The Chronicler retold these events to those who returned from Babylon. Chronicles highlights moments that show that (when there is repentance) God’s mercy, redemption, and salvation are sure. God is revealed as being faithful to forgive. He is the righteous one. We also need to believe this.

In Kings, much of the blame for the Babylonian exile is hung on Manasseh’s neck. This is probably the reason Kings does not include the repentance story. The Chronicler, however, is speaking to people who need to know that God restores.  

The Chronicler tells former captives of a king taken captive. He tells those restored to Judah, of a king who was restored. He tells those who were sinners and rebels of a king who repented and humbled himself. He tells those attempting to reestablish the worship of God of a king who deconstructed cultural idols and returned to true faith.

We can become obsessed and depressed when darkness and sin seem dominant in us and in our world. But even the weepiest of weeping prophets knew and proclaimed that light was coming and hope was warranted.

Manasseh’s story instills hope that repentance brings light. It tells us that there is no one beyond God’s judgment and wrath and no one beyond his grace and mercy.

Christ’s coming is a light of revelation. If we move toward Christ, revealing light becomes healing light and cleanses us of all unrighteousness.

We are not beyond hope. His arm is not too short to save. Come out of captivity to cultural idols and into the light.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Remember, Lord, how short life is, how frail you have made all flesh. — Psalm 89.47

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 33 (Listen – 4:01) 
Revelation 19 (Listen – 3:47)

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Read more about Why Chronicles?
Our history, our sins, our mistakes, cannot be deleted but our story going forward can be rewritten.

Come Out of Babylon

Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 32.31
31 But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart. 

Revelation 18.4-7
4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say: 
         “ ‘Come out of her, my people,’
         so that you will not share in her sins, 
         so that you will not receive any of her plagues; 
      5 for her sins are piled up to heaven, 
         and God has remembered her crimes. 
      6 Give back to her as she has given; 
         pay her back double for what she has done. 
         Pour her a double portion from her own cup. 
      7 Give her as much torment and grief 
         as the glory and luxury she gave herself. 

Reflection: Come Out of Babylon
By John Tillman

During Christmastide, leading up to Epiphany, we consider the revelation of Jesus to the Gentile nations as the light of the world.

Part of the Revelation of Christ’s Kingdom is the revelation of the sinful darkness of the kingdoms we live in. Part of why Christ comes is to rescue. Wickedness will be stripped and torn down. But whoever is willing to be saved, can be pulled out, picked up, raptured from the clutching darkness of the world. 

Babylon thought itself to be a light to the world and today’s empires think the same. Do we, as Christians from around the world, think of our own nations in this way? 

Many of us seem to. Many Christians are more enthusiastic evangelists for political or economic systems than the gospel. For some Christians, political parties have become our true religion. Some think of our nation as “The Kingdom of God” instead of God’s worldwide church. This is what Babylon does. It replaces the worship of God with the worship of nation, tribe, and self.  

Over and over, Babylon shows up as a test. God’s people fail and they fail and they fail. If we think we might fare differently, we are already too prideful.

Hezekiah was one of the greatest kings of Judah. His downfall began by pridefully entertaining powerful visitors from Babylon, even showing them the Temple and its decorations. All that he showed them, including his own children, would soon be stolen, destroyed, or enslaved by Babylon.

In Revelation, John records a call from Heaven for God’s people to “come out” of Babylon. This mirrors the call to Lot’s family to come out of Sodom. Even knowing that destruction was coming, Lot’s family clung with longing to the city they were a part of. They had to be taken, grasped, pulled by the hand to leave. Lot’s daughters had to leave behind their promised husbands, who laughed off Lot’s invitation to salvation. (Genesis 19.14-16)

“Come out of her,” Christ cries. “Don’t look back longingly,” warns the angel of the Lord…

Babylon is a test of the heart. We can become entangled in Babylon and engaged to Sodom. How wedded to Sodom and Babylon are we?

No nation should have a grip on our heart greater than the gracious kingdom of our Christ.
Come quickly, O Christ. Grasp our hands, Lord, and lead us out.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Be seated on your lofty throne, O Most High; O Lord, judge the nations. — Psalm 7.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 32 (Listen – 5:58) 
Revelation 18 (Listen – 4:48)

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May we leave sin and doubt in the desert, crossing the Jordan toward God’s calling to be his city on a hill.

Justice Brings Joy — Joy of Advent

Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 19.4-7
4 Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem, and he went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and turned them back to the LORD, the God of their ancestors. 5 He appointed judges in the land, in each of the fortified cities of Judah. 6 He told them, “Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for mere mortals but for the LORD, who is with you whenever you give a verdict. 7 Now let the fear of the LORD be on you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.” 

Revelation 8.4-5
The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

Reflection: Justice Brings Joy — Joy of Advent
By John Tillman

Part of the joy of Christ’s first Advent was the promise of justice and judgment on evil. (Luke 1.46-55) Christ’s second Advent holds the final fulfillment of this promise. Just a portion of Christ’s coming judgment is depicted by John as a censer full of burning coals from Heaven’s altar being hurled to the earth.

The anticipatory joy of Advent was always intended by the ancient church to remember the arrival of Jesus, the baby in the manger, and rehearse the arrival of Jesus, the conquering King of the Universe. 

Eschatology is the “theology of last things” and deals with questions of final judgment of the earth and the final destiny of humanity. A Christian eschatology should be filled with hope and joy. However, it’s possible for eschatology to put so much hope in the future day of the Lord that it has no hope left for today. It is possible for eschatology to be joyless in the present because the only joy it acknowledges is the joy of the finally fulfilled future.

In 2019 we wrote this about Eschatology and Justice:

Some eschatology…forsakes our responsibility to work and be concerned for the Earth of today. This line of thought claims that there is no need to uphold environmental concerns and care for the Earth, for God will make a new one, and there is no need to work for justice on the Earth, for final justice at the end of time is all that matters and is up to God….

Such hopeless hope and joyless joy! We should not neglect wiping away the tears of our neighbors by quoting a scripture that God will wipe away tears in the future.

Would we leave a mess for our master to clean up on his return? Would we expect an earthly parent to be pleased with this kind of neglect? Would we bury the tasks of righteousness and justice in the ground and dig them up, undeveloped and unimproved, to hand back to Christ when he comes? (Matthew 25.14-30) Would we expect his approval if we did so?

Justice brings joy. There is joy to be found today in being God-empowered agents of his kingdom coming on the earth. (John 3.25-30) May we greet his coming joyfully as faithful forerunners who have prepared the way for him. Let him find us faithfully at work sowing the gospel, establishing righteousness, and distributing a harvest of justice.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
I will call upon God, and the Lord will deliver me.
In the evening, in the morning, and at noonday, I will complain and lament, and he will hear my voice.
He will bring me safely back… God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me. — Psalm 55.17

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 19-20 (Listen – 8:09)
Revelation 8 (Listen – 2:15)

This Weekend’s Readings

2 Chronicles 21 (Listen – 3:25), Revelation 9 (Listen – 3:30)
2 Chronicles 22-23 (Listen – 6:51), Revelation 10 (Listen – 1:59)

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Read more about Joy and Justice :: Joy of Advent
We are not being unfaithful to the gospel when we work for justice. We are embodying the gospel…